LAUSD reaches three-year deal with unions on health benefits

The Los Angeles Unified School District and eight of its labor unions unveiled a tentative health and welfare agreement today that affects 250,000 employees, retirees, and their dependents. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Both sides told reporters they've struck a good deal. David Holmquist is LA Unified's chief operating officer.

David Holmquist: For the first time ever we have a three-year agreement on health and welfare benefits. Never before have we entered into a long term agreement on health and welfare. Historically every year we have to spend a large amount of time negotiating over what health and welfare benefits will be provided.

Guzman-Lopez: L.A. Unified often begins those negotiations by offering no increase in benefits. The school district's agreed in this deal to keep benefits intact for this calendar year, and to provide a three-and-a-half percent increase in those benefits' funding in each of the next two years.

That'll save the district more than a $100 million in the third year, Holmquist said. In return, a union-dominated committee that draws up employee benefits will essentially have final say over those benefits as long as they stay within their budget. Union leaders said they'll use that added power to negotiate better deals from health care providers.

Union leaders and administrators, who often clash with each other, smiled during the news conference. Daniel Villao of the L.A. and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council said school Superintendent Ramon Cortines played an important role.

Daniel Villao: I specifically and especially want to thank the Superintendent for his interjection in the process for helping us all stay focused and moving it along, and my counterparts at the table who stood shoulder to shoulder to protect what in this country is overlooked, which is the middle class.

Guzman-Lopez: Both sides said that benefits are more important to employees than salary. The agreement adds five years to the formula for an employee to earn lifetime L.A. Unified benefits.

The unions are separately negotiating their salaries. The teachers union is moving forward with a strike authorization vote next month because of stalled talks about pay.

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